3.5 out of 5 stars
When it comes to Edward Wright, the expectation for his productions would be an unanticipated depiction of the world with a killer soundtrack. From his partnership with Simon Pegg/Nick Frost to Scott Pilgrim vs The World to Baby Driver, this unconventional writer/director has never been tied to one genre or to be market-driven for his work. This is true about his latest production that allows him to take a deep dive into the dark and mysterious appeal of 1960's London’s Soho while showing how it’s history reverberates into the present.
As he introduces his first female-led film, Wright manages to recruit two of Hollywood's up-and-coming stars. Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, Old) takes on the compelling and complicated role of future fashion designer, Eloise "Ellie" Turner. While The Queen's Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy is perfectly cast as the historical muse, who haunts the young designer's mind. One woman lives in the present, but yearns for the lifestyle and atmosphere of the Swinging Sixties. This is all fuelled by her existential connection with the singer/dancer Sandie played by Taylor-Joy. Her life has been lived and continues to get drawn into the future.
After moving from the country to attend the London College of Fashion, Ellie quickly realises that she is not suited for the stereotypical university and is better suited to live independently. She moves into a one-room flat rented out by the jaded and aged Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg in her final role). Yet, after her first night, the young designer discovers that she can travel back to Soho in the sixties and follow the footsteps of her charismatic alter-ego, Sandie. As the captivating singer tries to navigate life in the seedy club scene of a by-gone era, Ellie is inspired by her tragically fashionable ways. Until their parallel paths collide in a collision of passion and violence with the introduction of an unscrupulous manager named Jack. (Matt King). Both women’s lives inexplicably begin to intersect through the decades that led to artistic and horrific results.
Within the multiple layers of Edward Wright’s writing and direction, the audience may get lost in the added folds with each new scene. Through this complexity, it could be said that this creative mind can either capture imaginations or cause confusion for all involved. Last Night in Soho continues to double back on itself with different messages of mental health, violence against women and all of those who live for the past. Each artistic element is wrapped in a suspense-thriller that keeps it's unexpected twist masterfully tucked away. Between the compelling cinematography and unique story elements, this is one for Wright's fans. All the while, keeping the viewer wondering where this dark tale will end.
Thomasin McKenzie embodies her character with disturbing accuracy with an innocence that hides darker influence. Then Anya Taylor-Joy provides the perfect counterbalance as she depicts the street-wise performer. This unlikely union will lead many to wonder when these two personalities will bond or destroy one another. They are complemented by a fantastic support cast, where some are effectively developed and others are left as two-dimensional. Regardless, most characters manage to fulfil their bit of the story. A journey that travels from dual-plane psychological drama to an eventual suspense horror that will appeal to Wright’s fans, but may leave many wondering what happened on the way to the Rialto nightclub.
REEL DIALOGUE: Why do we envy others?
Throughout the opening act, it is not hard to see how Ellie yearns for Sandie’s life. Envy that is eventually remedied throughout the screenplay. Still, it does open the door to conversation about why we all pine after what others have in this life.
There is something about looking at other people's lives and wishing that they belonged to you that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. Most people will tell you it is a less than satisfying journey to strive after what others have in life. Yet, we still do it. Where are some of the answers to this quandary?
Jealousy is a topic that has caused wars, damaged relationships and caused the best of people to do the unthinkable. Interestingly, this is seen from the beginning of the Bible’s story. From Cain and Abel through to queries by the disciples of Jesus in the Gospels. If you are searching for a remedy for envy, the Bible does provide the solutions.